Whose Shoes® came to Kings College Hospital this week and wow did we step up to the challenge!
Having observed the Guys and St. Thomas’s event in the summer of 2015, I knew we were in for a treat. I hoped and prayed that our event would generate a similar level of commitment that was felt at Guys, and I was not disappointed.
50 delegates, representing midwives, maternity support workers, doctors, commissioners, service users, receptionists, porters, health visitors and many other areas of maternity, streamed into the Education Centre promptly at 9:30. The day was introduced by Maxine Spencer, director of midwifery, who spoke about the day being a level playing field and that everyone was there as a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter (or a father or son for the men in the room), irrespective of their profession.
Having watched the “In their Shoes” MatExp DVD, during which you could have heard a pin drop, it was then the turn of service user Michelle Quashie to tell us her VBA2C experience. Again, everyone listened with respect and focus and there were tears from a few as she retold her powerful and inspirational story.
After everyone had composed themselves, it was time for the game to begin. Conversations started off fairly hesitantly, but people warmed up and pretty soon it was obvious how powerful this day would be.
On our table discussions ranged from noise on the postnatal wards, to caring for staff and teamwork, how to support women’s feeding choices and the power of language. Everyone spoke in a respectful manner and was very honest and open. Conversations just flowed and, as a facilitator, it was wonderful to see how professionals often spoke from the heart as service users. Proof that birth matters to everyone.
The wonderful Anna Geyer from New Possibilities weaved her magic on the plethora of post-it notes being generated from the discussions and as usual created the most beautiful graphic.
Tweeting was fast and furious during the day, to the point where I thought my Twitter feed was going to explode! Here are just a few of the hundreds of tweets:
Eventually, after a couple of hours, the discussions were brought to a close and Anna gave us her evaluation of the day, drawing out some of the points that we had raised.
As chair of Bromley MSLC, I was delighted to see the weight attached to having a strong, powerful MSLC as a voice for service users and professionals alike.
Then it was time for the pledges. Each individual was invited to pledge one thing that they would do differently as a result of attending the morning. Spontaneously, everyone clapped and cheered as one pledge from each table was read out. I haven’t had time to go through them all yet, but here are a handful that stood out:
“I will try to make every birth special (in theatre especially)”
“I will not use the following words: allow, only and let”
“To try and make the ward round more personal, friendly and positive and a respectful experience for the woman and her family”
“To always ask how the new father is as well as the new mother”
“I will facilitate a “good news” newsletter and encourage all staff to submit thank yous and nominate staff for good support”
“I will ensure that I always remember to update the woman and relatives on what is going on”
“I will make sure that every woman feels had the attention and care she hoped for”
“I will always say hello and congratulate all new parents on the ward”
“I will continue to facilitate named midwives (and ensure that) a woman sees her named midwife at least 4 times during her pregnancy.”
“To provide a platform for women to share their maternity experiences”
The Bromley MSLC has gathered together all these pledges, which will form our work plan for the next 12 months or so. We intend to monitor and check that they are being implemented. Amazingly, by the time I’d returned home and fired up my computer, one staff member had already emailed her colleagues to initiate the first “good news” newsletter. THAT is MatExp in action!!!
The other email in my inbox when I returned was from a service user who had attended the day. She asked me to share this with other members of the MSLC. She said:
I just wanted to express my thanks and congratulations on your amazing achievement on getting today’s ‘Whose shoes’ event to actually happen and to everyone else who was involved in organising this outstanding event.
What an absolutely amazing experience it was and so refreshing to see such a mix of service users and professionals all come together, to share knowledge and stories and all with the same goal, of making a difference to our maternity services.
I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and could have easily carried on for the rest of the day!!!
As discussed today on my table, people are very quick to complain, but never quick to praise so I thought I would come home and express my feelings and give my praise.
So thank you and I will see lots of you at the MSLC meeting next week. Really looking forward to seeing what the year ahead holds now we have our pledges to work with!!
I was fairly certain we were in for a special day, but I was overjoyed to feel the tangible buzz and energy created in the room. It was a privilege to witness how something so simple; getting professionals and parents together to talk about improving maternity services in a compassionate, respectful manner, can have such an impact. From the number of comments I’ve had flood into my inbox in the last 24 hours, I think its safe to say that everyone came away feeling fired up and committed to making local maternity services the best they can possibly be. I know it renewed my enthusiasm to do just that.
Oh, and one final thing. I think we raised the stakes of the #MatExp #bakeoff challenge!
Chair, Bromley MSLC